December 27

Techies turn thugs in bizarre clubs

first_imgMENLO PARK, Calif. – They may sport love handles and Ivy League pedigrees, but every two weeks some Silicon Valley techies become vicious street brawlers in a real-life underground fight club. Kicking, punching and swinging every household object imaginable – from frying pans and tennis rackets to pillowcases stuffed with soda cans – they beat each other mercilessly in a private garage in a bedroom community south of San Francisco. Then, bloodied and bruised, they limp back to their desks in the morning. “When you get beat down enough, it becomes a very un-macho thing,” said Shiyin Siou, 34, a Santa Clara software engineer and three-year veteran of the clandestine fights. “But I don’t need this to prove I’m macho; I’m macho enough as it is.” Adult groups appear more capable of flying under the radar of authorities. Participants asked that the address not be published for their invitation-only Gentlemen’s Fight Club bouts in a Menlo Park garage. Gints Klimanis, a 37-year-old software engineer and martial arts instructor, started the club in 2000 after more than a dozen people began showing up for his no-holds-barred sparring sessions with a training partner. Most participants are men who work in the high-tech industry, and the only protective equipment available are fencing and hockey masks for fights with weapons. Injuries do happen. Several fighters have suffered broken noses, ribs and fingers. “You get to be a superhero for a night,” Klimanis said. “We have to go to work every day. We’re constantly told to buy things we don’t need, and just for a couple hours we have the freedom to do what we want to do.” Men involved in fight clubs often carry bottled-up violent impulses learned from video games, cartoons and movies during childhood, said Michael Messner, a University of Southern California sociology and gender-studies professor. “Boys have these warrior fantasies picked up from popular culture, and schools sort of force that out of them,” he said. “The good guys always resort to violence, and they always get the glory and the women. Sometimes men carry that fantasy into their adult lives.” There is often a sadomasochistic thread running through underground fight clubs, said Michael Kimmel, a sociology professor at Stony Brook University in New York. “Real-life fight clubs are the male version of the girls who cut themselves,” he said. “All day long these guys think they’re the captains of the universe, technical wizards. They’re brilliant but empty. “They want to feel different. They want to get hit. They want to feel something real.” Menlo Park police hadn’t heard about the club and said they wouldn’t be likely to take action because the fights are on private property between consenting adults. But that could change if someone complains or is sent to the hospital, police said. Five-year fight-club veteran Dinesh Prasad, 32, a heavily tattooed Santa Clara engineer, said he once suffered a broken rib in a match but never told his fellow combatants. He also recently skipped his first wedding anniversary celebration to attend a fight rather than travel to be with his wife, who is finishing law school in Los Angeles. “I came here to get over my fear of fighting, and it’s working,” he said. “I’m much tougher than I was five years ago. I’m not at the level of these other guys, but if things were to get tough, I can get tough, too.”160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE11 theater productions to see in Southern California this week, Dec. 27-Jan. 2Inspired by the 1999 film “Fight Club,” starring Brad Pitt and Ed Norton, underground bare-knuckle brawling clubs have sprung up across the country as a way for desk jockeys and disgruntled youths to vent their frustrations and, in some cases, seek glory on the Internet. “This is as close as you can get to a real fight, even though I’ve never been in one,” the soft-spoken Siou said. Despite his reserved demeanor he daydreams about inflicting pain on an attacker. “I have fantasies about it,” he said. In recent months, police in New Jersey and Pennsylvania have broken up fight clubs involving teens and preteens who were caught after posting videos of their bloody battles online. Earlier this month in Arlington, Texas, a high school student who didn’t want to participate was beaten so badly that he suffered a brain hemorrhage and broken vertebrae. Six teenagers were arrested after DVDs of the fight appeared for sale online. last_img read more